Sushi is by far my favorite food. Nothing makes me happier than gently dipping fresh, thick futomaki into soy sauce and savoring its vinegary taste as I eye the next piece.
Unfortunately, the two people closest to me — my boyfriend and my best friend — don’t eat sushi. My boyfriend is allergic to fish. My best friend does not find raw fish appetizing. And that means that, to date, they’ve been spared of my favorite demonstration of how food and project management work so well together.
Kanban is at play in sushi restaurants across the country.
Take a look at this sushi menu (courtesy of Sushi 1 Novi in Novi, Michigan). The red star represents what is getting made. The blue star, the quantity. Price is conveniently labeled with the purple star. Project managers, or in this case the sushi chefs, immediately know what and how much they’re making of individual sushi orders. They don’t need to do a whole lot of work sorting out a complex order; the entire process is visual. As for due date, the table number is printed on the card, so all deliverables are promptly sent to the correct stakeholder to savor and digest.
The sushi business employs this method because it’s visual, quick to learn, and easy to understand. Kanban boards work the same way.
In a traditional Kanban system, cards are set up along boards. Users label what piece of work the card represents, how much of the work is needed, and when the work is due. All other details are noted, but don’t clutter the quick viewing experience.
Lots of people use the Kanban system. We use it to manage our editorial process at Capterra. Spotify uses it to streamline their operations. The Motley Fool uses it for IT project portfolio management — and tech companies around the world, like Google, PayPal, and Kickstarter, use Kanban methods on a regular basis.
While the system requires little more than a white board and sticky notes, there are lots of standout project management software that support Kanban in the cloud.
Because I’m such a huge fan of the system, I’ve compiled a list of online Kanban software. Some of the options are truly free online Kanban tools, whereas others charge a modest price for use of their system. Either way, the systems presented below are outstanding and can be applied to most industries.
They are arranged alphabetically, and not in order of preference.
Kanbanchi has a well-deserved 4.5/5-star rating on Capterra. Aesthetically, the system is gorgeous. For people needing Google Drive integration, Kanbanchi lets users create dashboards that convert to files in Drive. The entire system is clean, easy to use, and quick to pick up.
- A powerful tool that’s so simple that users don’t even realize how much functionality it offers.
- Unlimited dashboards, cards, and users.
- Users can share progress with outside collaborators.
- Some of its most meaningful features, like time tracking and exporting information to spreadsheets, require a substantial paid upgrade.
- No phone app.
- No API integration.
Price: Free for basic features. Add-on features, like Gantt charts, start at $10 per user per month.
Used Kanbanchi? Leave a review!
It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve already heard of LeanKit — major companies like Verizon, Adobe, and Siemens all rely on it to keep their businesses running smoothly.
The cool thing about LeanKit is that the tool dabbles in what makes project management efficient from a variety of processes. Cards can have dependencies. There is a very short learning curve for new users. It also offers reporting for flow, quality, and lead time. Overall, LeanKit is a powerful software option for businesses big and small, though I wouldn’t recommend it for individual use.
- Minimalist design that only focuses on what’s important for each view.
- Excellent board and task customization options.
- Outstanding customer support.
- Difficult to parse out user workloads.
- LeanKit can become slow if too many users try to access the server at once (relevant to enterprise businesses only).
- The Android app is almost unusable because of the number of bugs (the iOS version, however, is quite good).
Price: $12 per user per month will get you templates, unlimited boards, time reports, and other standard features. The cost scales up with added functionality; for example, $19 per user per month buys filtered work views and reports, $32 per user per month buys integrations and advanced reporting, and $49 per user per month includes SSO and a private cloud.
Used LeanKit? Leave a review!
I believe that it’s impossible to list the best online Kanban software without mentioning Trello—it’s the Kanban industry standard, one of the best free project management software available, and offers enough functionality to please almost any business.
- Incredibly easy to pick up and use.
- Excellent integration options, including Google Docs, Elegantt, and Slack.
- Great for communication, particularly for remote teams.
- Relies heavily on integrations to round out functionality like time tracking and Gantt charts.
- Columns can get overfull and messy.
- No reporting tools.
Price: Free for unlimited boards and members, along with Box, Drive, and Dropbox integration. More costly versions ($9.99 or $20.83 per user per month) come with more storage, integrations, added security, and priority customer support.
Used Trello? Leave a review!
If your team is in software development and has played with the idea of “Scrumban,” Yodiz may be the best option for you. Built with tech teams in mind, Yodiz centers on agile project management (particularly agile software development), offering pre-designed features like product backlogs, issue trackers, and integration with common development tools like GitHub and Zendesk.
- Lots of IT-specific features are already set up for users.
- Powerful reporting tools designed to analyze resource management.
- Excellent customer support.
- Users can’t track issues while in the development process.
- Mobile apps need some work.
- The search function does not allow advanced sorting.
Price: Free for up to three users. Upgraded accounts ($5 per user per month or $20 per user per month) come with a dedicated account manager, higher levels of support, and more detailed reports.
Used Yodiz? Leave a review!
If your tech team wants to hone in on online Kanban software dedicated to issue tracking, YouTrack is dedicated to just that. Companies like Samsung, Cisco, and Jaguar already use this incredibly powerful tool, and if your company runs in the large to enterprise range, this online Kanban software may be your best bet.
- Live dashboard reporting features.
- Users can customize their experience to scrum, Kanban, or a mix of both.
- Easily search and sort through tickets.
- Longer learning curve than other options presented here.
- Users have complained that the user interface can be clunky.
- Time tracking and worklogs are not easy to set up or use.
Price: YouTrack is free for up to 10 users and 5GB and scales from there (for example, the next level allows up to 15 users and 10GB for $20 a month). There is no difference in functionality between different pricing plans.
Used YouTrack? Leave a review!
There are so many excellent online Kanban software options that I couldn’t possibly list all of them here. What else do you think should be included? What have your experiences been with these tools? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you’re interested in other great software and Kanban insights, you might want to check out:
- The 6 Best Trello Alternatives for Productive Teams
- The Top 5 IT Project Portfolio Management Software For Usability
- 3 Data-Driven Reasons You Shouldn’t Develop Software Without Kanban and Time Tracking
- The Top 5 Lean Tools for Six Sigma Enthusiasts
- What is Scrum Methodology? A Beginner’s Primer
Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.